Behavioral Targeted Advertising

Imagine a world where advertising is so targeted that it is actually welcomed by the users. I know, most users don’t like any types of ads; it is understandable nowadays, since publishers try to squeeze ads anywhere and everywhere they can… there are multiple types of ads: disruptive (try to force the ad thru), user initiated (user has to show some interest), brand placement (brands in movies or games); and there is also the relevance of the ad… Targeted ads are important and effective for advertisers, but also more pleasant for the consumers. Imagine if all ads you see are products which might actually interest you and you were potentially shopping for. Furthermore, imagine if the ads are not actually just plain photos and pricing, but actually relevant information which might help you with your research and purchase. Let me tell you, we’re not far from it.

Internet publishing networks and other entities have ways of analyze browsing behavior and click-streams of every connected workstation. Every time you open a site, click through another site, search for a product or service, click on a banner or paid search keyword, … every time you do any of those things, someone is watching, logging, and analyzing. You might think it is invasion to privacy; I used to think so too. In reality, they don’t know your identity and they store all behaviors anonymously. Is it bad, awful, a crime? Not really, all they’re doing is improving your browsing experience. The fact of the matter is that if an advertiser buys an ad space, you are going to see it no matter what, but wouldn’t you like of it at least to be relevant? I would. There is no escape, so we better just accept it. To take it a step further, these entities even know to differentiate multiple people sharing a computer in a household by behavioral trends. They will know the difference of dad, mom, little sister, and little brother by the time of day and group of sites they usually visit.

Let’s take the same principle outside, to the real world. Imagine a billboard or posters with tiny cameras that analyze the people walking through. They know who looks, how much time they spend on it, and by facial recognition they even know the age, sex, and ethnicity of the viewers. Imagine if they could record all these data and use statistical information to display targeted ads to demographics by location and time.

Let’s take this last idea a step further. Imagine if these billboards and posters had the ability to store the frequency of your mobile device and capture the fact that you might be interested — this frequency is called RFID and all mobile devices emit it. Imagine if all billboards are connected into an intelligent grid, know if you’re approaching them by following your signal around, and show you direct targeted ads.

Everything I mentioned is either being done or coming. It is rather scary I might say, but none of it is captured against an identity; at least for now, though the scary part is that it could be with minimal modifications.